Are Pop Rocks your favorite childhood candy? For many Americans, they are!
Besides the sugary flavor that makes them highly addicting, what actually sets them apart from regular candies is the popping that ensues as they dissolve. This popping sensation is caused by the pressurized carbon dioxide bubbles embedded in the candy.
This is the reason why Pop Rocks have become so popular among children, as it’s an unusual, yet fun experience that kids can enjoy and share between them. Initially, I thought Pop Rocks followed a very similar recipe to Pixy Stix or Airheads — a combination of refined sugar and artificial colors.
However, it turns out Pop Rocks contain lactose, an ingredient derived from milk.
Let’s have a closer look at Pop Rocks and examine its composition.
Pop Rocks: Ingredients
According to Pop Rocks website, there are 15 different variations: Strawberry, Watermelon, Tropical, Blue Razz, Gum, Chocolate, Cherry, Cotton Candy, Grape, Green Apple, Sugar-Free, Xtreme, Sour Strawberry, Blue Raspberry, and Sour Apple.
While the core ingredients remain the same, the artificial flavors and colors vary based on the flavor you choose.
Here are the ingredients from a Pop Rocks variety with assorted flavors:
- Lactose (Milk)
- Corn Syrup
- Artificial Flavors
- Red 40, and Blue.
Apart from the obvious animal-based ingredient, we have to keep in mind that certain ingredients like refined sugar, artificial flavors, and artificial colors are dubious. Unfortunately, they’re part of a group of constituents that sit in the “gray area” because their vegan status is dependant on different factors that may directly or indirectly involve animal suffering.
Questionable Ingredients in Pop Rocks
Some of the questionable ingredients in Pop Rocks are sugar, artificial flavors, and artificial colors.
If you’re like most vegans, then this may bring you some awareness in terms of what these ingredients represent. Nonetheless, if you’re a more stringent vegan, then you probably already know why these ingredients are considered to be questionable.
Refined sugar can come from two sources: beets and sugarcane.
They’re both used in similar amounts in the United States, and also have an identical taste and texture. However, they have different refinement methods.
Beet sugar is filtered through a diffuser and mixed with vegan-friendly additives to crystallize, but cane sugar can be filtered and bleached with bone char.
What is bone char?
Bone char is used by the sugar industry as a decolorizing and deashing agent, giving sugar its white and pristine color. It also has the ability to remove inorganic impurities like sulfates, as well as the ions of magnesium and calcium.
Unfortunately, bone char is obtained by heating the bones of cattle at high temperatures. That results in a black, granular substance that is very similar to charcoal.
Some companies use vegan alternatives
Fortunately, there are also alternatives like activated charcoal and ion-exchange resins, which can be used to achieve the same result as bone char. However, ingredient labels make no distinction between sugar refined with bone char and sugar refined with these alternatives.
As a result, you never know what type of sugar is being used, unless you contact the company.
Take Oreos, for instance. For most vegans, Oreos are 100% vegan. However, the truth is that Oreos source their sugar from multiple suppliers, including ones that use bone char.
This is part of the reason why Oreos don’t consider themselves to be a vegan company.
Artificial Colors & Flavors
Different Pop Rocks variations require different artificial colors and flavors.
Artificial ingredients are technically considered vegan because they’re man-made. However, they’re also a byproduct of animal testing, so there’s a continuous debate on their vegan status.
Most vegans don’t mind, but stricter vegans are heavily against the consumption of artificial ingredients. This is understandable. Animals that are used for animal testing are stripped off their freedom and are also subjected to physical or mental pain.
Here is a video that gives you an insight into the life of mice living in labs:
While I don’t know whether or not artificial flavors are tested on a regular basis, I’ve learned that artificial colors are periodically tested due to their potential health risks.
Even if you don’t wish to avoid artificial flavors or colors, there’s no denying that stricter reasons are NOT wrong for being vocal against this practice.
Vegan Alternatives to Pop Rocks
Quite frankly, while I’m able to find some alternatives that don’t contain animal-based ingredients, it’s nigh impossible to find alternatives that lack the “questionable” ingredients.
In any case, I’ve created this short list of vegan options to help you out:
While these may not taste the same, or provide you with the same popping experience as the Pop Rocks, they’re still worth trying out!
Summary: Pop Rocks Are Not Vegan
Unfortunately, Pop Rocks are not vegan because they contain lactose, a milk-based ingredient.
In addition, you can also find ingredients like refined sugar, as well as artificial flavors and colors, ingredients that are rather questionable according to stricter vegans.
This being said, I’m sure you can find other alternatives that are as tasty and as fun as the Pop Rocks. Try some of the alternatives I’ve suggested above!
Hope this blog post has helped you! Thank you for reading.